Predicting Miguel Herrera's Mexico XI for Opening Game of 2015 Gold Cup

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2015

Predicting Miguel Herrera's Mexico XI for Opening Game of 2015 Gold Cup

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    Peter Dejong/Associated Press

    Mexico are six months away from making their debut in the 2015 Gold Cup. However, Miguel Herrera needs to start figuring out his starting XI.

    El Tri are seeded in Group C and will know their rivals later this year. It's a key competition for Herrera and his players. If they win, then they'll face the United States in a playoff to determine CONCACAF's representative in the 2017 Confederations Cup.

    The stakes are high for El Piojo, and the picture is quite complicated. Mexico are also set to appear in the Copa America, which ends four days before the Gold Cup kickoff.

    Having said that, El Tri coach must put together two competitive squads if he wants to meet his lofty goals, which include qualifying to the Copa America's final showdown, as well as winning the Gold Cup.

    Let's take a look at how Herrera's 2015 Gold Cup starting XI might look like.

Guillermo Ochoa (GK)

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    Guillermo Ochoa has been Miguel Herrera's first choice since the 2014 World Cup.

    The Malaga goalkeeper has proven his worth with El Tri both in official competitions and friendly matches.

    During the World Cup he was praised for his sublime performance, mainly against Brazil and the Netherlands. Overall, he conceded 0.75 goals per game and made three saves per goal.

    After the tournament, Ochoa signed with Malaga, but he has only appeared four times in the Copa del Rey although he has made 10 saves.

    The Mexican could move during the transfer window. The Express' Ben Jefferson reported that he is headed to Liverpool.

Miguel Ponce (LB)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Although Miguel Layun has been an unconditional presence in Miguel Herrera's squad, his move to Watford didn't please El Piojo, as per (in Spanish).

    According to the Mexican website, Herrera considered Layun’s transfer a setback in his career, which could hurt his chances to make the national team.

    This is where Miguel Ponce becomes an option for Herrera.

    The Guadalajara defender has been Layun's sub since the World Cup warm-ups. He made his debut with Mexico against South Korea a year ago.

    His performance in the local league has helped him mature and evolve into a reliable and explosive left-back, who can create opportunities easily.

Hector Moreno (CB)

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    Hector Moreno has already reappeared with Espanyol after missing the first half of the season due to a fracture suffered during the World Cup.

    Since his comeback, Moreno has appeared in one La Liga game, against Barcelona, and four Copa del Rey matches.

    Moreno is one of the most reliable Mexican defenders. His endurance and fierceness have led to several rumours linking him with Premier League clubs, such as Tottenham.

    His fine touch and body build, combined with his speed, allow him to leave the box regularly in order to create opportunities for the forwards.

Rafael Marquez (CB)

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    Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

    Rafael Marquez missed all Mexico's post-World Cup friendlies because he was getting used to his new team, Hellas Verona.

    This season he has appeared 18 times, has created six goal opportunities and has an average pass completion of 83 percent.

    At age 35, Marquez is by far El Tri's top defender. His experience sets him as the perfect leader for the back line, where Mexico has had a lot of problems in the past four months.

    Coach Miguel Herrera has used Marquez as a libero, which allows him to help the central midfielder when in distress, without overlooking his defending duties.

    Marquez will be an instrumental piece in the upcoming Gold Cup, which could very well be one of his last tournaments with El Tri.

Hiram Mier (CB)

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    The Monterrey centre-back hasn't appeared in an official competition with Mexico since the 2013 Hexagonal.

    Hiram Mier struggled with two knee injuries in 2014, which sidelined him from the World Cup and some international friendlies.

    Despite it all, he is a very talented centre-back who can also play through the right flank. His explosiveness and speed allow him to join the attack in style.

    Mier has been instrumental for Rayados since the 2011 Clausura, when he locked the starting position.

    If he manages to stay injury-free, there is no doubt that he will make the team.

Paul Aguilar (RB)

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    Paul Aguilar is the go-to man when you think of the right flank.

    He has been the undisputed starter since Miguel Herrera took over El Tri in 2013. Although El Piojo has tried other footballers in this position, no one has delivered the same results.

    Aguilar's fine touch, elusiveness and vision are his most valuable assets, which combined give him quite an advantage over other right-backs.

    His aerial game is superb, especially when he joins the attack in set pieces.

    Last season he helped America secure their 12th title by scoring once and creating 16 goal opportunities.

Andres Guardado (LM)

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    Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

    Andres Guardado's 2013/14 season was far from impressive. He started with Valencia and after six months he left for Bayer Leverkusen on a loan.

    Miguel Herrera decided to give him a chance to prove himself and it was worth it. Guardado sent Carlos Pena to the bench, due to his performance and attitude in the World Cup warm-ups.

    Suddenly he was back on track and eventually recovered his speed and fine touch, which resulted in a goal against Croatia.

    He also sealed another loan, this time to Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, where he is quite the sensation.

    So far he has nine league appearances, in which he has created 10 goal opportunities and has completed 85 percent of the passes he has sent.

Jose Juan Vazquez (CM)

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    Miguel Herrera has tried several footballers in central midfield, and although Antonio Rios proved to be ready to make the team, Jose Juan Vazquez continues to be the man in charge.

    El Gallito understands his role in Herrera's 3-5-2 system to perfection. He has enough vision to know when he has to become a defensive midfielder and when he has to create goal opportunities.

    Vazquez is the perfect link between the midfield and the attacking zone, but he also partners with the back line when his teammates are in distress.

    His performances with Mexico and Leon have been fundamental in the past year, and he is getting better by the minute.

Hector Herrera (RM)

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    Hector Herrera was included in The Guardian's top 100 footballers of 2014, the only Mexican on the list.

    He has shown his true talent in his second season with Porto. He helped the team secure a spot in the Champions League, and was fundamental for his club during the group stage, where he scored twice.

    Herrera is fast, has fantastic touch and can break the rivals' lines easily. He can finish a play or create one with the same success.

    He will definitively make the team and will continue to amaze, especially if he keeps his partnership in the midfield with Jose Juan Vazquez.

Carlos Vela (FW)

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    Peter Dejong/Associated Press

    Carlos Vela returned to El Tri after a three-year hiatus and he did it in style. The Real Sociedad forward netted twice in Mexico's 2-3 win over the Netherlands.

    Vela's return gave the squad a new face in the attacking zone. He is the kind of footballer who takes risks and tries to score whenever he has the ball.

    Different from some strikers, he knows when to pass the ball to his teammates for the greater good.

    After a slow start with his club, he is picking up quickly, and he has put the ball away seven times in 17 La Liga appearances.

    Vela is a game changer, which sets him as a very valuable asset for Miguel Herrera, especially since El Tri lacked finishing touch.

Javier Hernandez (FW)

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    Javier Hernandez has proven that despite not playing much with his club, he is still a thriving force for the national team.

    A natural fox in the box, Chicharito take advantage of every single shot he has, no matter if he scores with his back, head or his feet.

    Hernandez didn't have a real partner in the last third of the pitch. He never understood Oribe Peralta, while Giovani dos Santos always played to a different pace.

    But with Vela, Chicharito seems comfortable and ready to become Mexico's all-time scorer (he is eight goals shy from Jared Borgetti's 46-goal record).

    All stats appear courtesy of Squawka, ESPN FC and FEMEXFUT, unless otherwise noted.